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Families react Wednesday to their loved ones from the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, marching into the hangar Wednesday after a one-year deployment to Iraq. A delay of several hours was forgotten when the hangar doors opened and the troops marched in to cheers and whistles from the crowd.
Families react Wednesday to their loved ones from the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, marching into the hangar Wednesday after a one-year deployment to Iraq. A delay of several hours was forgotten when the hangar doors opened and the troops marched in to cheers and whistles from the crowd. (Rick Emert / S&S)

GIEBELSTADT, Germany — After a nearly three-hour delay and an intentionally short welcome ceremony, families from 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment finally got to dash across the hangar Wednesday to hug the troops: husbands, wives and friends they hadn’t seen in 366 days.

Although the younger children were growing impatient, the delay was forgotten when the hangar doors swung open to a formation of troops in desert camouflage.

As the announcer yelled: “Ladies and gentleman, welcome America’s newest heroes,” family members cheered and whistled from bleachers on the opposite side of the hangar.

Children held banners and signs and looked for their parents in the formation of about 150 soldiers. Another 250-300 soldiers had returned to Giebelstadt in smaller groups last week.

“I don’t know what to think,” said Misty MacCormack as she waited for the troops to arrive. “It feels sort of like a normal day.”

However, when she was informed that the buses had arrived — one of which carried her husband, Spc. Delbert MacCormack — she quickly changed her tune. “OK, now I’m nervous,” she said.

MacCormack and neighbor Carolyn Cote said the year apart was stressful.

“It was hard,” said Cote, wife of Pvt. Marshall Cote. “I was pregnant and had another baby not even one year old.”

“What helped us get through this was having very supportive neighbors who were going through the same thing,” MacCormack said.

Even “veteran” spouses relied on support from friends.

“We had a lot of social events at each others’ houses,” said Lisa Davis, wife of Sgt. 1st Class LoRae Davis. “When everybody is going through the same thing, that helps.”

The lengthy deployment wasn’t any easier on the soldiers.

“It seemed like it was never going to end,” said Spc. Pamela Smith, who got flowers from the family — Sgt. Richard Smith and children Anthony, 10, and Deanna, 11 — she hadn’t seen in a year, “It seemed like I would never touch ground here again.”

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